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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bespoke Japanese Vegetarian Dining - Bugis

Once in a while, a new vegetarian restaurant pops up that will be sure to get the vegetarian communities hearts beating faster.  Bespoke, otherwise known as 'Teng', otherwise known as...Well, this is one big problem, it is difficult to know what name to give this place.  There is no clear name on the outside of the restaurant, moreover it doesn't state it is vegetarian either.  Aside from that design flaw, the interior design of this restaurant is fantastic.  Unfortunately, when we arrived that night, the restaurant was completely empty (see 'Conclusion' for the reason why).


Bespoke Japanese Vegetarian Dining
Location: 91 Bencoolen Street, #01-50 Sunshine Plaza
Contact: 63377050
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am-3.00pm & 5.30pm-10.00pm


Comparisons are inevitably going to be made with Zen Japanese, which at one time was one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in Singapore.  Menu wise, there are a lot of similar dishes being offered at Bespoke.  If anything, Bespoke's menu is even more vast, compared to Zen.  Price wise, it is also very similar to Zen.  There was only one dish currently unavailable, which was the unagi - Which, ironically, was the dish I was most eager to try.  Even without the unagi, this is an incredibly diverse and detailed menu, which will leave you spoilt for choice.


One big positive that Bespoke currently has is their staff, the waiter is kind and friendly, and was very patient in adjusting the food to suit my vegan needs.  After completing our order, the waiter recommended that their Traditional Ocha (green tea) would make for an ideal accompaniment to our food.  This tea is apparently made from the traditional loose Japanese green tea leaves.  Quite frankly, I couldn't taste a big difference compared to just a regular green tea teabag - But I'll take their word for it that these are special leaves.  Seven dollars entitles you to unlimited refills.

Price: $7.00.      7/10





For vegan customers, you will find that a lot of the dishes contain dairy (usually in the form of mayo), therefore be sure to check with the waiter, so that those particular ingredients can be excluded.  The Avocado Maki was one such example, that has mayo (with egg) within the maki roll and dolloped on top.  I asked for half to exclude mayo and half to be served as normal (as I was eating with my ovo-lacto friend).  Presentation wise, all the dishes from Bespoke are beautifully displayed on the plate, special care was taken in cutting the avocado into thin strips, which looked picture perfect.  Inside the maki was mock sashimi, mock prawn, cucumber and nori.  The dish tasted subtle, fresh and creamy (thanks to the avocado).  Most importantly, the rice texture was firm and not over-cooked.  An impressive start to the meal.

Price: $12.00.     9/10


Bespoke has a number of set meals, that go up as high as $36.  I went for the Green Tea Soba Set, which was one of the more affordable set meals.  Portion wise, it was definitely big (not big enough for the Hungry Ang Mo, but for someone with 'normal' stomach space, I am sure it would be enough).  The focal point of the dish is the green tea soba, which was absolutely delicious.  The soup was flavourful (some may find it too salty - For me it was fine) and ingredients well cooked - I especially loved the tempura batter bits that were swimming inside.  The other components to the set included stir-fried vegetables (cooked magnificently), sushi, salad, green tea pudding (non-vegan) and rather oddly, a cheese and tomato fried spring roll (non-vegan) - Which seemed a little out of place, if you ask me.

Price: $18.00.     8/10


I ordered several other dishes, which the chef simply put together on one plate, so let us go through them now...










My first selection was the Smoked Duck with Mushroom.  This dish consists of layers of mock duck and king oyster mushroom, which were then drizzled in a dark, rich, mildly sweet and (too) salty sauce.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and packed with juice.  The 'duck' slices were a little too salty, but did have good smokey flavour.  When consuming the mock duck, it reminded me of the thin BBQ pork strips that are sold in such barbaric abundance in Singapore. 

Price: $12.00.      7/10


Next up was the Beancurd with Natto.  Natto is highly controversial, with most people detesting the taste of it.  For all the debate on the taste, no one can deny the health benefits of these fermented soya beans.  For this dish, the natto is sandwiched in between two thin triangular beancurd sheets.  When dunked into the special yuzu sauce, the taste was definitely decent.  However, I found the portion size was definitely too small to justify the price.

Price: $6.00.     6/10


Probably the most disappointing dish of the evening was the Teriyaki Chicken.  The major reason for this was the salt level in the dish.  Not only the sauce, but the mock meat itself had way too much salt content.  I also found that just two skewers was a little merciless, considering the price tag.  The positives were that the mock meat was well charred, and (minus the salt) did have good flavour.  Not a dish that I would consider ordering again though.

Price: $6.00.     5/10


Conclusion - Bespoke would benefit from better marketing, otherwise I am worried for their future.  The Japanese vegetarian market has the potential to be hugely successful in Singapore, but Bespoke need to know how to sell their strengths first.  With no facebook, website, clear restaurant name - It will be difficult for them to gather attention from the public.  With that being said, I was definitely impressed with the food they were selling.  I guess this makes their lack of marketing all the more frustrating, because I firmly believe these dishes deserve to be enjoyed by the mass population. 

For my SECOND Bespoke review - Click HERE!

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 9/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 6/10

28 comments:

  1. Aiyo, sounds like a very good eating place. Too bad! Even a simple make-shift printed sign saying they're vegetarian would've worked.

    Btw, the prices seem a bit high for some of the portions. Maybe they could adjust the sodium content. Vegetarian sometimes could be healthier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Dee,

      Definitely the prices are high. There is also service charge added to the meal too (this added another $6) for our meal. Some dishes are worth the price, others are not.

      This resturant only opened up a few months ago, so I guess they are testing the waters still - I am sure they will improve more in the future! :)

      Luke

      Delete
  2. Hi,

    There is a 30% discount for dine-in promotion, till 28 April 2013.

    cheers,
    jessie.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Luke how you get to know this place?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Laura,

      A few of my readers told me about it! :)

      Luke

      Delete
  4. Hi Luke,

    Omg the avocado maki looks so good! I am salivating in front of the computer hehe. Can't wait to check this place out soon. Thanks for the recommendation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Angela,

      Yeah the avocado maki was definitely one of the highlights. But the green tea soba was my personal favourite - Really amazing dish! It can be ordered without the set also, which is what I would do next time!

      Thanks for the comment.

      Luke

      Delete
  5. I just went tonight..so crowded !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Hui Hui,

      Wow, I guess the 30% discount promotion really helped to lure people in!

      Luke

      Delete
    2. could be :) perhaps your blog posting also helps
      think they were overwhelmed by the crowd. hope the price is kept at the 30% discount ;p

      btw,didn't read about your comment on the 'no unagi'..was a bit disappointed..

      Delete
    3. Hey Hui Hui,

      Certainly hope my blog post helps, I wish for Bespoke to survive, so if my post helped at all then I am very happy.

      I think by early April the unagi dishes will be served already...I recall the waiter saying they will be available to order soon!

      Luke

      Delete
  6. so happy to know there's another veg jap restaurant to eat at. there used to be a zen jap veg restaurant at middle road or something right? i heard it was closed...such a pity cause the food was really good.

    val

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey val,

      Yes Zen used to be at Middle Road, and has now combined with Herbivore - Which is at Fortune Centre.

      From what I understand, one of the chefs/owners of Zen is the owner of Bespoke. Which is why the menu is so similar.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Luke

      Delete
  7. Dairy and eggs are not really "offending". Vegans just actively chose to forego these for healthier and more compassionate alternative options.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey anonymous,

      I am a vegan myself, so you don't need to try and educate me on the reason people choose not to take dairy and eggs.

      'Offending' can also be used to convey something displeasing or disagreeable - Which I find is applicable.

      Haha, but instead of nit-picking this nonsense, let us do something more meaningful with our lives.

      Luke

      Delete
  8. I'm sure having gone from being a vegetarian to a vegan, you do have a wealth of knowledge in the various aspects of such a lifestyle.

    Being such a popular blog, there are many readers (veg and non-veg alike) who are keen to follow your posts. Therefore, the usage of certain words might mislead readers who do not have a clear concept. But then again, different people interpret the same words differently.

    So no offense in "offending". Haha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey anonymous,

      Haha, don't worry, I didn't take offense!

      Actually my blog is just a humble little blog, but I am pleased with the amount of readers that I have amassed over the years. And you're right, I wouldn't want to mislead them. I do take great effort to make sure my reviews are as accurate and detailed as possible.

      No hard feelings, and hope that you continue to enjoy my blog in the future! :)

      P.S. I took out the word 'offending' just in case, like you say, it misled others.

      Luke

      Delete
    2. I am always sad to see vegetarian places use dairy and eggs. If their purpose in setting up a vegetarian place was for compassionate reasons, perhaps they serve dairy and eggs because they do not know the arguably even worse suffering of the animals so humans can have dairy and eggs. The staff at Bespoke was most anxious to assure me their food is certified vegetarian by the Vegetarian Society (or something to that effect), which again made me sad. I can understand the use of the word offending, for dairy and eggs bring to my mind the most horrible images.

      Apart from that, I was happy with my meal there, except for the unavailable unagi (do you know if they are available yet?) and that they do not offer regular sushi soy sauce but a thicker, sweeter sauce which tasted similar to the sauce used in their teriyaki items. Dipping sushi in that sauce made it too sweet.

      Thanks for your reviews, Luke, makes me wanna return for the soba!
      A

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    3. Hey A,

      Definitely I am in favour of restaurants going completely vegan. Or at least reducing the amount of dishes that have animal products in them. I found it frustrating at Bespoke, that even the mayo had eggs inside - So that made order very troublesome, as a lot of the dishes had mayo.

      However, from a business stand point, I can understand that they don't want to limit their audience to just vegans only. Considering how the majority of meat-free eaters in Singapore are Hindu or Buddhist, neither of those groups see anything wrong with taking dairy, nor do they ever know what veganism is really....

      ...It is difficult to balance these two aspects - Making a profit and yet still pleasing every dietary preference.

      I was really disappointed they don't have the unagi, I really have no idea when it will finally be available - Hopefully soon!

      Thanks for the detailed comment!

      Luke

      Delete
    4. Hey A,

      Just to clarify on the unagi - I called them today and asked when it will be available, the answer I got was 'we have no idea'. Haha.

      Luke

      Delete
    5. I don't feel vegan establishments limit their audience to just vegans though, but perhaps you mean it limits their options on what they can offer which can limit their audience? I believe vegan food can cater to all, but it definitely takes more work to find tasty substitutes. Perhaps another negative is that it may increase their costs if the vegan substitutes cost more.

      I agree that many vegetarians don't understand veganism, but I think (and hope) more people are starting to see and value the lives of the animals above profit, taste and convenience. I am so happy to see more vegan places opening like Vegetarian Era and the new Veggie Cottage! I really hope they do well and survive, like you said it is difficult to balance. Just saw your post on the latter, thank you for sharing, I'm excited to go! XD Yes, so nice not needing to check for dairy and egg!

      And thank you for checking about the unagi! You're the best xoxo
      A

      Delete
    6. Hey A,

      Just to let you know, the unagi is now available! I believe they started selling it yesterday.

      Believe me, I am 100% in favour of more vegan eateries opening up in Singapore, and this is definitely what will happen in the future. I have more new exciting vegan eateries to share on my blog very soon. So stay tuned for that!

      Luke

      Delete
  9. Hi happy to see another veg restaurant how does it compare with Herbivore?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey anonymous,

      Personally I prefer Bespoke to Herbivore, as the prices are not as high, and this place is 100% Japanese food. Unlike Herbivore, which is a mixture of different cuisines.

      Herbivore is still a nice place, but I think most people find it too expensive to eat there regularly.

      Hope that helps!

      Luke

      Delete
  10. Omg!! ur vegan!! Fabulous!! I was thinking of trying this new jap food.....until i saw that they have egg mayo..........sigh..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey vegan hamster,

      Yes, I became a vegan over a year ago now! :)

      Luke

      Delete
  11. Just saw an article at http://freshgrads.sg/articles/lifestyle/food/1853-teng-bespoke-vegetarian-dining that gave them a spanking good review, and they even have an ongoing contest to win a $100 voucher from the restaurant. Could be a paid advertorial.. I'm not sure. Have not tried vegetarian japanese food yet so I'm curious as to what the hype is all about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey anonymous,

      Seems like a genuine article to me, but I could be wrong.

      You can rest assured no body pays me to write anything, haha. So my honest opinion is that you should check out Bespoke. Although the food is not perfect, it is still very unique and worth the experience. :)

      Hope that helps!

      Luke

      Delete

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